Saddam Was Just By Comparison

From Holden:

Woe be it to you if you fall into the hands of American forces in Iraq.

[Cyrus] Kar, 44, a naturalized American born in Iran, followed his dream where few others might have gone. In mid-May, he traveled to Iraq with an Iranian cameraman to film archaeological sites around Babylon. After a taxi they were in was stopped in Baghdad, the two men were arrested by Iraqi security forces, who found what they suspected might be bomb parts in the vehicle.

Since then, Mr. Kar has been held in what his relatives and their lawyers describe as a frightening netherworld of American military detention in Iraq – charged with no crime but nonetheless unable to gain his freedom or even tell his family where he is being held.


The relatives said the only detailed information they had received came from one of the F.B.I. agents who searched Mr. Kar’s apartment in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles on May 23. They said that after analyzing his personal files, computer drives and other materials, the agent, John D. Wilson, returned the seized items on June 14 and assured them that that the F.B.I. had found no reason to suspect Mr. Kar.

“He’s cleared,” one of Mr. Kar’s aunts, Parvin Modarress of Los Angeles, quoted Mr. Wilson as saying, “They were waiting for a lie-detector machine, but they finally got it. He passed the lie-detector test.”


Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who are representing Mr. Kar’s relatives, said they would file a lawsuit on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Washington, accusing the government of holding Mr. Kar in violation of American and international laws and seeking his release through a writ of habeas corpus.

“Saddam Hussein has had more due process than Cyrus Kar,” said Mark Rosenbaum, the lead lawyer in the case. “This is a detention policy that was drafted by Kafka.”


[Kar’s sister Anna], who works for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Africa, said she had discouraged her brother from going to Iraq and was pleasantly surprised when she received a call on May 24 from a Red Cross colleague in Iraq, who said she had just seen Mr. Kar.

“I said: ‘Oh, great! What a coincidence that you met him over there,’ ” Ms. Kar said. “Then she said, ‘No, I just visited him – in detention.’ ”

That visit, however, was about the only hard evidence Mr. Kar’s family has received about where or how he is held. He has made three brief, furtive telephone calls to his relatives in Los Angeles, but has not told them anything more than that he is being held “by the Americans” and that he fears for the fate of his cameraman, from whom he was separated.

Mr. Kar’s aunt, Ms. Modarress, said she had asked him in one of the calls if he had been tortured.

“He said: ‘Not now. At the beginning. Where I am now is like a country club compared to where I was,’ ” she recounted.